A toad just launched your lucky chugger airborne. When the dust settles, no fish. A couple panic cranks and a quick cast later, your bait's back in the strike zone. A few nervous chugs and a slush or two and nothing. What to do?
Well, don't panic. The fish is still there—just a bit wiser and somewhat wearier. There's a couple tricks, "sleights-of-hand" if you will, that'll coax quite a few of these fish into your boat or onto the bank.
1. Fast Twitch. While it sounds like that odd eye tick your ne'er-do-well brother-in-law has while passing the cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving dinner table—rest assured it's not. Should a fish bang your bait and miss it, simply change your retrieve, opting for a faster pace. Very few, if any baitfish, lay limp after getting their clocks cleaned. In most cases, they beat fin for the nearest exit.
The same holds true for your bait; speeding up your cadence mimics a fleeing baitfish. Your short-sighted predator will typically be in hot pursuit for another swing. Never –– and I mean never –– pause or stop your retrieve. This socially awkward stall tactic never draws a second strike, no matter how many fingers you've crossed.
2. The Ol' Switch-O-Change-O. If a fish is now dead-set against popping your popper again, don't get flustered. Instead, have a second rod rigged with a different style of bait. If fishing a top-water, have a sub-surface something ready-to-go.
Follow the initial bait's retrieve path with your jig (let's say) on a shorter cast; working it a bit faster than the first offering. In most cases, swapping bait types and throttling up on the retrieve speed will trigger another strike from an already overly jazzed fish.